This headline is a misnomer in a way, because there is no such thing as a perfect pitch when it comes to querying an agent. No, that’s not quite right: the perfect pitch letter is the one that compels an agent to request all or part of your manuscript. But here’s one thing I’ve learned: submission guidelines vary dramatically.
One agent looks only at the first five pages of a manuscript; another asks for ten, while others want the first 25 pages or three chapters. But whatever the magic number, before you can send your pages off, you have to write a query letter that’s tantalizing enough to trigger a request for those precious pages of yours.
No doubt about it, query letters are tricky. Like a first date, they can make you nervous. No wonder there is so much online chatter devoted to them, some of it helpful, some of it overwhelming and confusing.
So, if there’s a query letter in your future, first breathe deeply and then “freelax,” as Alex used to tell me when he was a little guy. Writing a query letter pitching your project doesn’t have to be tortuous; it can actually be fun. To get you started, here are a few basic tips I’ve gleaned:
• remember that agents love stories: they want to hear from writers and they want to
discover great projects;
• a query letter should capture what’s unique and “juicy” about your story. One agent
suggests a “place, person, pivot” strategy: in a pithy, action-packed paragraph,
describe your story’s world, main character, and the problem/crisis/inciting incident
that kicks it off. Show what your character wants most and the obstacle(s) ahead.
• Be sure to include your story’s genre and audience/age group and wrap up with
compelling bits of your background that are relevant to your project. Write on!